Experts offer advice for keeping critters out of your home

Paul Sassone
There is a bewildering array of state, county and municipal laws and regulations on dealing with wild animals. Photo by Christopher Michaud

There is a bewildering array of state, county and municipal laws and regulations on dealing with wild animals. Photo by Christopher Michaud

Do you have bats in your belfry, or even a belfry?

How about squirrels in the attic, or raccoons in the cellar?

If a critter has made your home its home, you can try to solve the problem yourself, or get help. But be careful. There is a bewildering array of state, county and municipal laws and regulations on dealing with wild animals.

“What is allowable depends on the municipality,” said Jack MacRae, a naturalist at the Willowbrook Wildlife Center. The center, operated by the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County, is at 525 S. Park Blvd. in Glen Ellyn.

To find out what you can and can’t do, MacRae recommended calling the animal control unit of your local police or public works departments.

“What you do depends on a lot of things,” MacRae said. “A lot depends on what kind of animal you’re dealing with.”

The first and most simple solution — if it works — is to drive off the animal.

Some ways to drive out the animal from your home include continuously shining a bright light into the area inhabited by the animal; shove ammonia-soaked rags into the animal’s area; and, not surprisingly, blast loud rock music into the peace-loving animal’s bedroom.

A detailed list of steps to take, and specific tips for specific animals, is available on the center’s website, or by calling (630) 942-6200.

But if the animal doesn’t want to leave — or actually likes the music you’re blaring at him — stronger steps are needed.

But, again, be careful.

“Trappers need to be licensed by the state,” MacRae said. “Before you hire anyone, make sure they are licensed by the state.”

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) is the agency that regulates the granting of such licenses.

You could try to capture the animal yourself, but you probably don’t have a license. And even if you could capture the critter, what would you do with it?

You can’t kill it and you can’t let it go. It is against the law to release wild animals onto public property.

If you insist on doing it yourself, contact the IDNR and request an animal removal permit. A removal permit will be issued only after all other reasonable efforts to correct the problem have failed.

Instead, MacRae recommended hiring a professional firm. Professionals have the necessary licenses and permits. They also have the skill and ability to humanely euthanize animals, should that be necessary.

Hiring a pro is safer, too. Wild animals can cause injury and they often can carry disease.

A professional can transport animals safely and securely. It is illegal to transport animals unless they are secured in an appropriately sized trap.

Some animals, mice for instance, are not covered by the Illinois Wildlife Code, so no permit is needed to trap or kill them. It is, however, illegal to remove or euthanize animals covered by the code without a permit. Chances are the animal you want out of your attic is on the list.

How do you know if the professional you hire is qualified and licensed?

The IDNR can provide such information. Go to www.dnr.illinoisgov, or call (217) 785-3423.

To obtain a license, operators must pass an annual test.

If all this sounds like a bother and an expense, you can try to prevent the problem from arising in the first place. Here are tips. Some are seasonal and some are good to follow year round:

  • Remove food sources, such as bird seed, pet food and garbage or food scraps in compost bins;
  • Remove sources of water, such as bird baths, backyard ponds, leaky outdoor faucets or containers that hold rain water, such as old tires or plastic food containers;
  • Remove cover and shelter;
  • Remove plants that are attractive to wildlife for food and shelter;
  • Cut back tree limbs that are within 10 feet of the building;
  • Keep grass cut short, 2 to 3 inches high;
  • Remove brush piles and piles of stacked wood.

The University of Illinois Extension (on its Living with Urban Wildlife in Illinois website) recommends regularly checking the integrity of your home:

  • Make sure the soffits and eaves are in good condition;
  • Install a chimney cap and use hardware wire over outside vents;
  • Quickly repair any holes you find. But make sure you don’t seal an animal inside;
  • Prevent animals from burrowing under decks and around foundations by placing hardware cloth over openings under decks and patios.


— Experts offer advice keeping critters out of your home —